The Ceramic Bottle - Celebrating 10 Years of Beau's All Natural Brewing Company
Beau's All Natural Brewing Company is celebrating their 10th birthday this weekend. The lead up to the birthday party has been nothing more than spectacular starting with the announcement that the owners intended to sell the brewery - to their own employees! If you missed out on some of the fun things that have happened leading up to the celebration, here's the rundown:
- May 16, 2016 - Big News Brewing at Beau’s All Natural: Canadian Craft Brewery Announces Intent To Sell
- June 9, 2016 - Beau's named official beer of Ottawa 2017
- June 16, 2016 - Three limited-edition beers to commemorate Beau’s 10th Birthday
- June 17, 2016 - Beau’s brings back ceramic bottles of Lug Tread for its 10th birthday
The Lug Tread ceramic bottle is iconic and will forever be a part of Ontario breweriana. When you look at the history of the bottle, and its limited re-release 10 years later, it paints a story of a brewery. With the help of Jen Beauchesne, Beau's Director of Communications, I'd like to share that story with you.
Lug Tread first hit LCBO shelves in March of 2008 and the ceramic swing top bottle was a welcome contrast to the cans and bottles that lined the shelves. "We were originally going to package Lug Tread in the custom 600ml brown glass bottles we have now but we couldn't get them in the smaller quantities we needed," says Jen Beauchesne. "We found these ceramics and decided they were way cooler than any other bottle."
As always Beau's sourced the 750ml bottles from Phoenix Packaging in Germany.
The Bottling Line
One of the coolest stops on the Beau's brewery tour is the bottling line (bonus points if you've ever seen it in action). That impressive system can bottle up to 66 bottles per minute and with an adjustment to the filler the current ceramic bottles were also filled on the line at a speed of 35 bottles per minute.
This is a great improvement from how they used to be filled. "At first they were filled by hand, one at a time, with home brewing equipment (a Blichmann beer gun attached to a keg of Lug Tread)," remembers Jen. "We upgraded to a two-head filler that still was operated by one person, but filled two bottles at a time - high tech! Each pop-top was closed and sealed by hand."
Each bottle was filled by weight while on a scale to ensure the correct filling level. "It was pretty easy to hit the mark, unless the keg ran out while you were filling it," says Jen. "We knew no one was going to complain about overfills, so those we sold. And the underfills were take-home beer for staff - something we still do today."
Most of those underfills were probably enjoyed at one of Beau's "Laverne and Shirley" parties. In the early days fans would help package the ceramic bottles and go to co-founder and CEO, Steve Beauchesne's place for a spaghetti supper after.
In Ontario we're used to returning our empties to The Beer Store for a refund. From the point where you receive your refund (remember, 631ml or over = $0.20, 630ml or under = $0.10) the bottles are sorted by brewery, bottle type and colour. Depending on the brewery and bottle type the bottles are either picked up by breweries when they are making new deliveries, picked up by a third-party recycler or sent to a bottling plant to be cleaned and reused.
When the original bottles started being sold in the LCBO The Beer Store wouldn't collect them as Beau's wasn't an active customer. Sadly, many original bottles were sent to a recycler and crushed. "We encouraged customers to bring their empties back to the brewery instead, and got quite a good number back that way." Jen says. "Operation Come Home's social enterprise, Bottle Works, would collect them from people's homes in Ottawa."
During 'peak ceramic', just before the switch over to the 600ml brown bottles Beau's now uses for all of their releases, Beau's was selling 90,000 ceramic bottles. Each of those bottles were labelled with what is now known as the Beau's tractor and has become a signal of wholesomeness, both the beer and the people who represent it.
Only 15,000 were produced for the re-release and special attention was made to the brewery's iconic logo. "The detailed tractor artwork was created specifically to honour Lug Tread and to give it visual distinction from the other brands over the decade," explains Jen. "This is also the first bottle that features our new logo for 2016 (on the hang tag)."
I hope you'll join me and raise a ceramic bottle toast to Beau's All Natural Brewing Company - the people who made it what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. Oh, and I'd hold on to that bottle if I were you, some of the original ceramic's have been seen for sale on Kijiji for over $20.00!